A tender, uplifting love story set in the depths of hell: the contradiction makes this book un-put-downable. Although it’s presented as a novel, Morris met with Lale Sokolov, the title character, several times a week for three years to get all the facts and nuances of his story. His facility with languages led to the assignment to tattoo numbers on the arms of prisoners brought to Auschwitz from all over Europe. His years in the camp presented him with many opportunities to help his fellow inmates, but those opportunities were freighted with ethical dilemmas and the risk of his own life and others’. Through it all, his love for Gita, whose arm he tattooed, remained steadfast and intense. A riveting look at the Holocaust through a most unusual lens.
- Banna— From Banna's New Recs
September 2018 Indie Next List
“I devoured The Tattooist of Auschwitz, a powerful book based on a true story, in two sittings. Lale, a Slovakian Jew at Auschwitz-Birkenau, becomes the Tatowierer—the man responsible for tattooing every prisoner who arrives at the concentration camp. Seen by some as a collaborator, Lale must make impossible choices to keep himself and his friends alive. Incredibly, Lale tattoos the woman who will become the love of his life. The power of their love in the face of unmitigated horror makes for one of the most compelling WWII books I have ever read.”
— Carrie Deming, The Dog Eared Book, Palmyra, NY
Winter 2018 Reading Group Indie Next List
“Holocaust survivor Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov met with author Heather Morris for three years before his death in order to recount his harrowing experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII. His story was developed in this novel about an Auschwitz prisoner (Lale) who survives by learning to tattoo numbers onto the arms of incoming camp prisoners. After tattooing one woman, he is determined to have her as his future wife, and resolves to survive the war. Traumatic events in the camp threaten to destroy him and his girl. In the back, Morris includes photographs, a map of the camp, and a postwar follow up on Lale, his wife, his family, some of the prisoners, and his guards. Agonizing, yet triumphant.”
— Robin Allen, Forever Books, St. Joseph, MI
The #1 International Bestseller & New York Times Bestseller
This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.
“The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an extraordinary document, a story about the extremes of human behavior existing side by side: calculated brutality alongside impulsive and selfless acts of love. I find it hard to imagine anyone who would not be drawn in, confronted and moved. I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone, whether they’d read a hundred Holocaust stories or none.”—Graeme Simsion, internationally-bestselling author of The Rosie Project
In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov's experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.
About the Author
Heather Morris is a native of New Zealand, now resident in Australia. For several years, while working in a large public hospital in Melbourne, she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an Academy Award-winning screenwriter in the US. In 2003, Heather was introduced to an elderly gentleman who ‘might just have a story worth telling’. The day she met Lale Sokolov changed both their lives. Their friendship grew and Lale embarked on a journey of self-scrutiny, entrusting the innermost details of his life during the Holocaust to her. Heather originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into her debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
“Based on a true story, the wrenching yet riveting tale of Lale’s determination to survive the camp with Gita is a moving testament to the power of kindness, ingenuity, and hope.”
“Like the Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel’s Night, Morris’ work takes us inside the day-to-day workings of the most notorious German death camp. Over the course of three years, Morris interviewed Lale, teasing out his memories and weaving them into her heart-rending narrative of a Jew whose unlikely forced occupation as a tattooist put him in a position to act with kindness and humanity in a place where both were nearly extinct.”
“The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the story of hope and survival against incredible odds and the power of love.”
“The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an extraordinary document.. I find it hard to imagine anyone who would not be drawn in, confronted and moved. I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone, whether they’d read a hundred Holocaust stories or none.”
— Graeme Simsion, internationally-bestselling author of The Rosie Project
“What an extraordinary and important book this is. We need as many memories of the Holocaust as we can retain, and this is a moving and ultimately uplifting story of love, loyalties and friendship amidst the horrors of war.”
— International bestseller Jill Mansell
“As many interviews as I did with Holocaust survivors for the Shoah Foundation and as many devastating testimonies as I heard, I could not stop reading THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ—an extraordinary story of love so fierce it sustained people enduring the unimaginable. Read it, share it, remember it.”
— Jenna Blum, NYT and international bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family
“To many, this book will be most appreciated for its powerful evocation of the everyday horrors of life as a prisoner in a concentration camp, while others will be heartened by the novel’s message of how true love can transcend even the most hellishly inhuman environments. This is a perfect novel for book clubs and readers of historical fiction.”
— Publishers Weekly
“..this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Although one might suspect that there’s far more to his past than is revealed here, much of Lale’s story’s complexity makes it onto the page. And even though it’s clear that Lale will survive, Morris imbues the novel with remarkable suspense.”
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